Believe it or not, I'm an optimist

I keep getting comment after comment about how discouraging I am, and how I'm all doom and gloom. OMG, please, understand one thing: I LOVE my job. L-O-V-E. Every morning, I look forward to seeing my patients. The whole 'Don't become a doctor' series is about full disclosure. It is the price you pay for being a doctor. Do you really want to read another article on how medicine is difficult, but rewarding?

I got a private comment from a reader asking me if medicine really was so horrible, and I felt a little guilty. So for those of you similarly disheartened, fuck this whole series. I have one question for you: are you in love with medicine, or are you in love with being a doctor? Because I love the medicine. I have gotten into arguments with other docs about whether a patient should be on coumadin or not. You have to be passionate about the medicine. Because you will never be passionate about getting mail addressed DOCTOR ifinding, and you'll feel no sense of fulfillment from the length of your white coat.

So for those of you who are not regular readers of this blog, understand that this blog is written for me and me alone. I do not write this blog for other people. It is my fears and concerns and worries. It is entirely about the things in my life that worry me.

And since I'm getting sooooo many detracting comments, I thought that I might give you a little... treat. Here is a quick list of all the things that make me crazy happy to be a doctor. There are so many wonderful things about being a doctor, and it is a super fantastic job, if you can deal with all the negatives.

(1) There are only a few 'sacred' professions. For example, there are only two people that a family will call to the bedside of a dying person: a priest and a doctor. Caring for the sick and dying, that is a very special kind of duty, and I feel so lucky to have met so many wonderful families, under the absolute worst circumstances, and seen just how beautiful love is. Watching a wedding is a beautiful display of love, but it cannot even come close to watching a woman weeping at her dead husband's bedside. That is sacred. We as physicians are privy to so many of these sacred moments: births, deaths, and everything in between.

(2) There are very few professions where science and humanity mix so intimately. You can be the best scientist in the world, but if you can't interact with people, you'll never be a good clinician. In hard sciences, you have to love the science in a vacuum. In medicine, I love the science because of the difference it makes in people's lives.

(3) Medicine is one of very few professions where you meet people from all walks of life. In medical school, I was rounding and we were talking to a patient who didn't graduate 4th grade. When we came out of the room, the attending told me, "Here we are, over 30 years of higher education cumulatively, and we still need to be in touch and accessible to this guy with a 4th grade education. I tell ya, ifinding, it keeps you humble."

(4) It's very easy to find fulfillment in your work. One of my ICU calls was absolutely miserable, and I was complaining to the nurses why does all this shit happen when I'm on call? I was getting crushed. One of the nurses came up to me and said, "Dr. ifinding, it may seem really bad, but we are so thankful that it is you on call. When I finish my shift, I can sleep easy knowing that you're doing everything you can for my patient. If it was me in that ICU bed, I'd want you by the bedside." In medicine, there is no finer compliment. Whenever I feel lost, I think of all the people I've cared for, and it's easy to find the strength to keep going.

(5) I love puzzles and thought games. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word jumbles, all kinds of games like that. I love to take chaos and make it into order. That is how I know that I was destined to be an internist. Every patient is like a little puzzle. Do you have diabetes? What are the diagnostic features of pneumocystis pneumonia? Every day, I am mentally challenged. It is exciting.

(6) I like to take care of people. I like having my own patients who think of me as their physician. It is so flattering. I have one patient who hugs me every time she comes in. She is such a sweetheart. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have a patient who is a complete asshole, who after years of me killing him with kindness, he's become very cordial and pleasant! The nurses were shocked. All this medicine stuff, it's fun, but without the patients, it would be meaningless to me.

That is what I love about medicine. It lets me take care of people. It lets me do my good for the world one person at a time, and I get the luxury of seeing the fruits of my labor. It is, at its core, remarkably selfish of me, and I am not sure how selfish and selfless can exist in the same action, but that is why I love medicine.


Vitum Medicinus said...

I felt a little guilty when I read the first couple of paragraphs, because I feel like I should take the blame for a handful of the people coming to your site, reading those posts, and thinking those thoughts about you. As I'm sure you've noticed, I link to the DBAD series pretty often.

On the off chance you're wondering why I link to it so much, I'll tell you. There are 3 reasons.

First of all, for me, as a pre-med, those posts made me realize that in spite of the worst parts of medicine, I still wanted to become a doctor. Very reaffirming for me at a point in my life when I was overwhelmed by thoughts of "is it worth it" and "do I really want to do this" and "do I really know what I'm getting into." At that point in my life, they really struck a cord with me.

Secondly, at this point in my life right now, having done a year of medical school and realizing how difficult and demanding and overwhelming it is - even though I'm only at the tip of the iceberg - I realized that medical school is something that nobody should get into uninformed. Thus I believe that your posts are something that pre-meds should read so that they don't get a false impression of medical school being all buttercups and roses.

The third reason is because your series is pretty much the first thing I read on any medical blog, and it had a huge impact on me. I attribute my joining the blogging community to that series alone.

I'm not a pessimist, but I come across as one on occasion because I'm a realist. Perhaps you suffer from the same misinterpretation on occasion as well.

incidental findings said...

I appreciate the links. People criticizing the content of my blog is nothing new. I just take a little offense when people say that I hate my job and I'm cynical. Because I love my job, and I love my patients, and if I didn't, then that would be truly sad.

A friend of mine tells this to all his medical students, and it is so true. We work too damn long and too damn hard to do something we hate. So make sure that you love what you do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post. I hope my earlier comment isn't something you took as negative - it wasn't. I put myself in the realist category too, not the pessimist one.

Since I made contact with you about that, my thoughts are a little different. I'm newly in love with the idea of practicing medicine again. This latest post is just the icing on the cake - it's strangely similar to how I imagine my future. I know that no matter what shape my future takes, medicine has to be in it. Thanks for making a note of these bright moments.


incidental findings said...

No, I didn't take your comment as negative. I have received some uncivil comments which did not make it through moderation. And some civil comments that did make it through.

I think I have come to realize that people read what they want to read, and miss my meaning and intent entirely, even when explicitly stated.

Ran said...

I recently started reading your blog, both he DBAD series and your old stuff. And I just have to say that I appreciate the work and the thought it takes to keep up this blog.

Keep writing, it's good stuff.

Anonymous said...

As a professional writer, I've learned that the word is a shifty thing, and that's what makes our language work. People will always bring their own biases and experiences to what they're reading, and they'll read you the way they see the world.